Tuesday, January 28, 2014

King Chumbu

King Chumbu

          ‘I can’t understand,’ said Thoko, ‘why people keep voting wrong leaders into government. We always finish up with people who told us they would work for us and make our lives better, but as soon as they get into office they start filling their own bellies and leaving the rest of us to starve!’
          ‘That’s how humans behave,’ I replied sadly. ‘There’s nothing to be done about it.’
          ‘Except to throw them out when their behaviour becomes intolerable!’ suggested Thoko.
          ‘Even that doesn’t help much. You can be sure that the next king will become insufferable within 90 days.’
          ‘I sometimes think,’ said Thoko, ‘that we should elect a complete simpleton as king, some half-wit just to hand out the medals on Independence Day, kick the ball to start each cup-final, wear a silly gown to open parliament, and otherwise be harmless.’
          ‘You have to be careful with that sort of thing. Idiots can be even more dangerous than clever people.’
          ‘Then why have people at all?’ laughed Thoko. ‘We could just choose a dog or a goat, and dress it up in chitenge and gold chains, to be our national symbol on ceremonial occasions.’
          ‘That reminds me,’ I laughed, ‘of the story of King Chumbu, who ruled the Land of Zed a thousand years ago.’
          ‘Really?’ said Thoko. ‘My History teacher has never told us about any King Chumbu.’
          ‘I’m not surprised,' I cackled. 'Some bits of history are best forgotten.’
          ‘So what happened?’ asked Thoko.
          ‘It was election time,’ I explained, ‘and it was time to elect the next king. At the first big election rally a joker stood up waving a large lump of sweet potato, shouting Let’s elect this sweet potato!
          ‘And the people responded enthusiastically, shouting in reply Yes, let’s elect the sweet potato. All the other kings have been sour, this chumbu is sweet. All the other kings have been pompous, let us have a humble sweet potato. Instead of the king eating us, we shall eat the king! Everybody likes the sweet potato! Chumbu for king!’
          ‘So was the chumbu elected?’
          ‘Oh yes. He was elected by a big majority, and became King Chumbu.
          ‘And was he a sweet and humble king?’
          ‘Within a day of taking office he started to swell with pride, declaring that he had been appointed by God. This came as a terrible shock to everybody!’
          ‘Because they thought they had appointed him, not God?’
          ‘No, because they didn’t think the potato could speak. They thought that they had elected a king who would remain mercifully silent. But now this one was babbling continuously in a language spoken only by other sweet potatoes, a language called Chichumba.
          ‘And the worse thing was that all the time he was babbling, he was giving orders. He ordered that all the schools should teach Chichumba, so that all the children would understand what he was saying.’
          ‘And what was he saying?’
          ‘He was saying that all the people who didn’t like sweet potatoes should be locked up for insulting the king. He was saying that there would be no more fertilizer or seeds given for growing maize, rice, cassava or sorghum. Instead everybody had to grow sweet potatoes.
          ‘He declared that God was a sweet potato, and would favour only those who were made in his image. A picture of King Chumbu had to be on every wall, every chitenge and every coin. He changed the name of the country from Zed to Chumbia, with a national motto of One Chumbia One Chumbu.  At the big state occasions people no longer marched up and down, but now had to roll on the ground as if they hadn’t got legs, pretending to be sweet potatoes, and groveling in front of the Great Chumbu.
          ‘How ridiculous!’
          ‘State occasions are always ridiculous.’
          ‘And did people resist all this nonsense?’
          ‘Thoko, you know how people are. They just want to fit into the system, and get jobs by flattering the appointing authority. They began to eat plenty of sweet potatoes to fatten themselves into shapeless lumps, so that they looked more like the king. The more successful of them actually became sweet potatoes.’
          ‘Didn’t some people resist?’
          ‘A few people held meetings to discuss whether the end of human civilisation was a good idea. They were arrested and imprisoned for holding secret meetings without a permit, and for sedition and for treason.’
          ‘Good gracious!’ exclaimed Thoko. ‘Didn’t that contradict their right to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression?’
          ‘King Chumbu had confiscated their constitution and instead written his own constitution on a single leaf of kalembula.’
          ‘Wasn’t that a bit small for writing a constitution?’
          ‘Not really. It just read Never offend King Chumbu. He is the law, the judgment and the imprisonment.’
          ‘He wouldn’t listen to any discontent?’
          ‘A chumbu has no ears to listen. No way of bending without breaking. He is chumbu mushololwa. A perfect choice for a dictator.’
          ‘So how did it all end? How was the Land of Zed restored to us humans?’
          ‘It was after the king had flattened the Zambezi Forest Reserve and in its place put the King’s Chumbu Plantation. That was the year of the Great Plague. A terrible fungus called Chumbu Catastrophicus wiped out all the chumbu in Chumbia. Within three months there wasn’t a single sweet potato left in the land.’
          ‘The human’s returned?’
          ‘The few hundred remaining Zedians escaped from jail. Others returned from the diaspora. Human civilization was restored.’
          ‘So luckily God changed his mind about King Chumbu.’
          ‘I suppose so,’ I replied. ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.’



  1. Taketh away Indeed! Amen!

  2. King Chumbu had confiscated their constitution and instead written his own constitution on a single leaf of kalembula.’ hahaha LOL so funny yet so true :-D :-D

  3. Wonderful masterpiece!! It helps keep you sane in these troubled times......!!!!!

  4. Lord you have given, kindly take away!